Those unaccustomed to Daniil Medvedev, a player who hadn’t before last year gone beyond the Australian Open fourth round and, thanks to a prime-time Nick Kyrgios showdown followed by a perfectly executed sledge to raucous fans, probably know his name now.
Which is entirely worthy for a more-than-probable new world No.1.
The biggest story in the game – the absence of Novak Djokovic, hardly an elephant in the room – is expediting Medvedev’s progression.
The realities facing world No.1 Djokovic – tournament opportunities rapidly drying up due to the Serbian’s choices about vaccination – will result in a shuffling of spots at the top of the rankings. Forget conjecture about who’ll be No.1 at year’s end, consider who’ll fill that spot in the first week of February.
“If I manage to do big results, I can become No.1, especially of course with Novak losing his points here,” Medvedev said.
“I mean, we cannot not talk about this. But that’s life, you know.”
Daniil Medvedev beat hometown fan favourite Nick Kyrgios in the second round.Credit:Eddie Jim
Medvedev has come a long way in just 11 months, when Djokovic destroyed him in straight sets in last year’s men’s Australian Open final. Now he’s a US Open champion and the justified favourite to win in Melbourne – a result that will make his No.1 status official. After all, in the rest of 2021, Medvedev made big inroads at Roland Garros, reaching the quarter-finals after four straight first-round exits.
A Kyrgios comment sums it up. “I think if you asked everyone on tour, I think that he would be, I think they would probably vote him the best player in the world at the moment.
“[It’s] his consistency. Every game he doesn’t drop his level, he shows up every game, plays – I think no matter what the score is or how much pressure he’s under he never kind of gets flustered. He just has so much belief in his game.”
Medvedev and world No.3 Alexander Zverev can both become the new world No.1 if they win. For Olympic gold medallist Zverev, it would also be his first grand slam title.
Moscow-born Medvedev, 25, doesn’t shy away from his aspirations. His trajectory and results in 2021 – the career-best result in Paris and also at Wimbledon (fourth round) shows his time is now.
“I think the higher you climb the rankings, the further you want to go,” Medvedev said after his tough four-set encounter with Kyrgios and sections of the crowd.
“I have been No.2 for quite a long time. I have been playing pretty well. Of course, yeah, I want to, you know, become No.1, win 25 slams, or something like this.”
Medvedev freely talks about the missing Serbian – hence his comment that “we cannot not talk about this”.
“But that’s life, you know,” Medvedev said.
“Sometimes somebody’s injured, sometimes somebody lose. Well, he didn’t manage to play here. That [the ongoing Djokovic saga] was a big story.”
And, with smile firmly planted on: “I think I should still have some credits.”
For a player whose on-court smarts are closely matched by off-court nous – he went to school at the Ukrainian Physics and Mathematics Lyceum – a well-timed sledge about fan intelligence came with bite.
“I had a break point second serve and people were cheering like you already made a double fault and, I mean, that is just disappointing,” Medvedev told Eurosport.
“It was not everybody who was doing it, but those who were doing it probably have a low IQ.”
Kyrgios was hardly setting the agenda when he pumped up Medvedev’s tyres. “To be honest, I threw everything I could at him. I thought I served consistently 220s, 220 km/h for three-and-a-half hours almost.”
But Medvedev, too, knows Kyrgios’ plaudits carry meaning. Thursday night was, quirkily, Medvedev’s first win over the Australian. There’s bound to be more, despite Kyrgios himself not knowing how much he’s going to play.
“It’s nice to hear this,” said Medvedev.
“Because Nick is I think a good guy outside the court. On the court he’s an entertainer. It doesn’t mean he’s bad.
“He’s somebody that can beat anybody, we know it. Like when we say ‘anybody’, it means anybody, including Rafa, Roger, Novak, and any top-10 player because he has a lot of motivation to do it. He wants to show this.”
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